Usually, as an advertising person considers advertising anything, they think about how they personally feel about that product. Or, in this case, when you advertise against something, you still consider how you feel and what kind of relationship you have had with that product.
When CSPI Mike Jacobsen approached me to create work with the goal of changing the cultural conversation around soda I was just finishing off a 32oz. Big Gulp. Not actually, but I've never been militant about soda either. Like a lot of people, I really like one from time to time.
Mike and CSPI have been long-time food activists and he is responsible not just for coining the term "junk food" but for much of the ingredient labeling we take for granted on the back of the products we buy today. This guy is the real deal and he has been trying to wake us up to the costs of sugar in our diets for a long, long time.
I'm actually one of those people that has removed High Fructose Corn Sweetener (HFCS) from my diet but I don't worry too much about traditional cane sugar. Mike is a scientist first and foremost and his position is all sugar is the same. I'll take a wait and see approach, but by avoiding HFCS, which is in almost all packaged food today, my sugar (fructose) consumption is way, way, way down. It's been a good thing.
Years ago before we concieved of the TRUTH campaign to reduce teen tobacco consumption I had the same questions about tobacco that I have about soda today. At the time many of my friends smoked and so I felt compelled to create something that told the truth about tobacco and the tobacco industry but avoided attacking the smoker. Part of our brand values were that TRUTH didn't care if you smoked. We just wanted you to know the truth. Period. That pretty much mirrors my attitude with soda. I never was a smoker but I've had and enjoyed plenty of pop. I even worked on advertising for diet soda. Today I avoid the HFCS stuff but I love an occasional Clementine Izze or the Cokes that get imported from Mexico made with cane sugar. The key word is "occassional." Soda was never meant to be an everyday beverage.
So why work for CSPI? Because as a society our increase in sugar consumption has been monumental and it is making us sick and soda is the number one contributor in raw calories. This is a problem we need to figure out because although you might decide to opt out of drinking soda you can't opt out of what is happening to your friends and neighbors and country. You can't opt out of a healthcare system that is collapsing under the costs we ALL pay in taxes to treat runaway obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more.
The costs that an industry passes on to you when they do business are called "externalized" costs. What that means is that in the course of them doing business things happen around that business but they don't have to pay those costs. Lung cancer was and maybe to some degree still is an externalized cost of the tobacco companies doing business as usual. When used as directed a large number of their customers wound up in hospitals undergoing treatments and care that they often could not afford. That cost of business was passed onto the taxpayer and state government. Eventually, the states realized how much this was costing and they began to educate citizens, tax the tobacco companies, regulate their advertising, and, finally, sue them to recoup the billions the states had spent to essentially subsidize the tobacco companies way of doing business.
With soda, we are probably in the very early stages of a similar realization. When used as suggested by the packaging and the marketing, people drink dangerous amounts of liquid sugar/soda and become so sick that they go into the healthcare system where we all pay with our tax dollars to work to repair their damaged bodies. Each one of us is paying for Big Soda to do business the way that they are doing it. Either paying with our health, our kids health, or our wallets getting lighter to pay the taxes to prop up an overburdened healthcare system. Our wallets might be the only thing getting lighter unfortunately. It's bad. And it's not just doctors, food activists and epidemiologists that are concerned. Our military has begun to sound the alarm because we are too obese to fight. In fact, they can no longer get an average 18 year old American into shape during basic training. There's not enough time to do it. Our addiction to sugar is a matter of national security.
Now Big Soda suggests that they never advertise to children as part of being responsible advertisers. So why do they have cartoon bears? It reminds me a lot of when the tobacco companies suggested that they would never advertise to children yet Joe Camel was about as well known with children as Mickey Mouse at the time. There's a big sculpture of a polar bear holding a soda at a ski resort near where I live. And I almost never see grownups crawling all over that thing. Guess they missed the mark.
We are at the beginning of a massive cultural shift and our food is at the center of it all. I believe there is a healthier future ahead if we just keep the dialog going.
Hard to know what The Real Bears can contribute to a more open and realistic cultural conversation about Soda, sugar or even HFCS. Yet that remains our sincerest hope for the project - to make a sweet world even sweeter.
A great many people spent a lot of their talent and time to produce a 3 minute labor of love. These folks make a sweet world, even sweeter. Mike Jacobson (vision), Jason Mraz (music and love), Lucas Zanotto (animation), Amanda Fox (production grit), Jeff Cronin (guidance), Todd Putmin (mentor), Mark Eckhart (glue), Adam Butler (creative), Marty Butler (creative/production), Stefanie Hermsdorf (design/rocket fuel), Ronny Northrop (lead creative/writing), Ryan Kutchner (creative/writer), and Cyrus Clemensen (digital guru) Let me know if I missed anybody and I'll add the name ASAP.
That's Leon. He's working toward universal access to healthy food in the heart of East Oakland. I would argue he's found a proper cause. I'm still looking for one.
We all find ourselves inside the flux capacitor these days. That's how I think of it, all these disruptive forces rewriting the world at quick clip before our eyes. We live inside a historical moment of pretty serious change. Paradigm-shifting stuff. Every generation must feel like it's the most important, most aggrieved, most portentous generation to have ever graced the earth, but you know what, this time of ours is special. We've got technology laying the world bare and we get to fight over how best to rebuild the systems that support us. Technology breeds transparency, and that transparency shifts power right into our hands.
I think this is why causes are so in. The world's in peril, and every thoughtful person is figuring this out. Some find out through corporate abuses and the struggles of a dying middle class. Some find it in preventable chronic illness striking a parent or child. Some find it in overnight temperatures hot enough to keep the windows closed and the AC struggling to keep up. I'm personally seeing it everywhere—from silly food additives that turn my kids' cereal purple to a public school down the block that can't teach them addition. The systems as they were are failing us. They need rebuilding. It's time to reclaim them and get back on track.
If you are a person that feels this way, then you are a person motivated by mission. You want to make the world a better place. Leon says it well: "If you keep doing the same thing you're doing, you're going to get what you got." The proliferation and escalating awareness of cause-based effort is an inner call to collectively change this mess and get something new. We're all hungry for a proper cause, and I would argue that every thoughtful person these days is finding ways to translate that hunger into action. Look at this website for ample evidence.
I live deep in the world of food reform as the editor in chief of a business journal focused on nutrition and natural products. It's considered by many to be the "publication of record" for an industry that opens welcoming arms to organic food, functional food, dietary supplements and integrative medicine. We've gone pretty deep on Proposition 37, a citizen-led ballot initiative to label genetically engineered ingredients in California. I've talked to every expert I could find about Prop 37, and here's what I think: There is no more subversive or effective way—and the latter seems to increasingly require the former—to promote change right now than support this initiative. As a friend at work put it to me, growing a tomato in your backyard is really a true act of subversion, given the corporate hegemony of our food, our healthcare, our politics. It's downright subversive to feed yourself well and sustainably. Whole industries and systems of power are built around you doing exactly the opposite.
I gave Prop 37 $100 when my company wouldn't and it made me feel a little better, but not better enough. So I asked Alex for the space to write this blog and he said yes. If a Bt toxin can carry from genetically modified food to mother to cord blood, it's really just a matter of time before we realize that feeding our kids chemicals and pesticides was a bad idea. I understand the faulty mechanisms of Prop 37, but I see a higher purpose here. My two daughters need more from me than $100. They need me to shake things up, break the patterns. They need me to label food so that transparency can dig its indifferent heels into our most well-heeled corporations and surface every GMO, every pink slime, every reckless profiteer, every toxic influence on their future.
There is nothing perfect about Prop 37, but it's here, it's going to get a vote, and it might pivot the food world toward a healthier place. It might actually be a proper cause—a messy, unexpected volley from the fringe that continues to catch our giants of agricultural chemistry and processed food unawares—and that's why I support it. Given the state of things, shouldn't we all try to be a little bit more like Leon?
by Marc Brush, @allmybrush
The Ad Age headline and story is obviously a bit different than the one I would have written. I'm certainly not squaring off against Pepsi - I'm supporting human beings who have the right to know what they are eating.
I actually have a lot of empathy for these companies that find temselves on the wrong side of issues with more and more frequency. Thanks to E.J. Schultz the writer of this piece. It's a difficult issue to cover and I think he did a good job in at least bringing up Genetically Modified Ingredients and the work being done to label them. Ad Age only used bits of what I sent them so I thought I'd include the rest here.
Hi Alex -- Sorry just saw this --went to my spam folder for some reason. Story is going up soon, and just wanted to give you a chance to make a quick comment on why you gave the donation. Obviously some big marketers such as Pepsi have donated million in opposition ... so just wanted to get your quick take.
Ana and I believe that GMOs are one of the biggest health issues we face and the current system where they are not labeled goes against everything that consumers have fought for over the last half century. JFK created the Consumer Bill of Rights and that document created the foundation for the FDA. Their charge is to help consumers make informed decisions about the food they eat. There is no consumer benefit to GMOs so of course the industry fights the effort in California to label them. The industry also knows that in places where GMOs have been labeled, like most of Europe and Japan consumers have rejected them. In the US it's estimated that 70 percent of our food contains GMOs. We just began feeding them to the population without any long-term studies. We believe Prop37 is the biggest vote that will happen this year and it's a rare chance for consumers to take back a fundamental right to know what they are eating.
You mention that big brands are fighting Prop37 and the right to know. It's ironic that these same companies are suggesting that consumers have a right to choose as they fight Bloomberg in NYC but then turn around and fund the effort to keep consumers in the dark on GMOs. I guess they only support your right to choose when they're certain that you'll make the choice that they want you to make.
It seems each day you read about a big food company who is in some public battle. It's sad to see because in many ways we've inherited this food system that has been optimized to maximize profits and not health. I'm afraid that until we address these systemic issues we'll find big brands on the wrong side of a lot of these battles - secretly fighting with their customers with one hand as they work to sell them something with the other.
Good luck with the story. I'm aware this is a hard story to even cover. We appreciate your work to tell it.
"Happiness" Subsidized: Big Soda Doesn't Want A Tax On Drinking Soda. But They Don't Seem To Mind Taxing You To Sell More Soda.
Even those who defend the swilling of soda and sugary drinks as an American right, best metered by “personal responsibility”, have to concede that the products themselves don’t really add any meaningful nutritional value to the bodies of their drinkers. But still these bevs have risen through the meritocracy of American consumer preference to become the single largest source of calories in our national diet. And our waist sizes have risen somewhat proportionally. But enough about public health, let’s examine if sellers of sugary beverages can attribute all their success to their own marketing brilliance and tasty liquid concoctions or if these defenders of liquid freedom of choice have evidence of ‘nannying’ in their growth curve.
Let’s start with the basics, as in, basic ingredients and basic business reality. It’s well established that HFCS is a core ingredient of today's sugary drinks canon. And this data from the USDA shows just how much in general terms:
Demand for HFCS is driven by demand for products that use the syrups as inputs. For HFCS-55, the major use is in the beverage industry, which demands over 90 percent of total domestic deliveries. Major food users of HFCS-42 include the beverage industry (41 percent), processed food manufacturers (22 percent), cereal and bakery producers (14 percent), multiple-use food manufacturers (12 percent), the dairy industry (9 percent), and the confectionery industry (1 percent).
It is estimated that, in the 2000s, about 511 million bushels of corn, or about 4.7 percent of the total U.S. corn crop, has been be used to produce HFCS. http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/sugar-sweeteners/background.aspx
So it follows that the acquisition cost of this ingredient has a major bearing on sky-rocketing profits. And not only was the price of HFCS less than cane sugar, until 2011 the price of HFCS was driven artificially low by a corn subsidy. A subsidy that just happened to coincide with late 1970’s US instituted tariffs that drove up the price of sugar.
The combination suddenly made HFCS a great deal for food producers. Beginning in the mid-1980s, the sweetener started working its way into foods, and within a few years, it was showing up in thousands of products -- contributing thousands of empty calories a week to the average American diet.
- Bruce Watson, senior features writer for DailyFinance
And while the death of the heavy corn subsidy is likely raising the cost of goods for big soda there is a major boon on the demand side that most certainly lightens the mood in their boardrooms. According to a new study from Yale University researchers published last Monday by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine; S.N.A.P., The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, pays out as much as $2.1 billion annually for the purchases of sugary drinks. As the researchers concluded, “Allowing annual use of multi-billions of SNAP benefits to purchase products that are at the core of public health concerns about obesity and chronic illnesses appears misaligned with the goals of helping low-income families live active, healthy lives.” But again, enough about public health, this is just business. Big fat business. And if you don’t think it is, just feast your eyes on this:
"Coca-Cola, the Corn Refiners of America, and Kraft Foods all lobbied successfully against a Florida bill that aimed to disallow SNAP purchases for soda and junk food. Proposals from other jurisdictions, which would also limit purchases of candy, cakes and chips with food stamps, have either failed or stalled amid intense lobbying."
- From the report “Food Stamps: Follow the Money” http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/FoodStampsFollowtheMoneySimon.pdf
So remember, the government should never attempt to tell you what you should or shouldn’t eat. No, that right belongs to big soda exclusively, even if a more inclusive process might be giving a leg up to our collective nutritional IQ and potentially lead our nation to a healthier and more productive place. That’s not the kind of help we need. In fact, we don’t need help making decisions at all. We would hate to limit any of the maternal bandwidth that could be flowing the direction of those captains of industry who produce so many bottles of liquid happiness. Choice should be preserved at all costs. Because in the end we’d rather have the right to buy happy with government welfare than be reminded by the government that we control our own welfare and happiness. That’s the new American way brought to you by big soda and paid for by us all.
by Adam Butler
The GMOs in the French study were approved for human consumption in the US after just a 90 day rat feeding study. Subsequently, they have gone into our American food supply and today more than 70% of the food we consume contains Genetically Modified Organisms. Over the same period of time we've become a very sick nation while countries who have avoided/banned or labeled GMOs have faired much better. France has been very sceptical of GMOs and has required labeling on any product consuming GMOs. Their recent study is one of the only long term feeding studies, unless of course you include the feeding study being conducted on the American public. Perhaps that's why the results look so much like the epidemics we are facing as a nation. More tumors. More damaged organs.
Right now in California Prop37 would require the labeling of foods that contain GMOs. Today if you want to avoid GMOs the only way is to only buy organic. With labeling we can regain the right to know what we're eating. More on the study and Prop37 here.
As always. Spread the news. We will only achieve a safer and fairer world together.
It's funny/tragic how hard the average weather person has to work to AVOID mentioning the reality of man-made climate change. The link between our weather extremes and global warming pollution is something that scientist don't just understand, it's something that average people are beginning to experience. The dots are easy to connect. Dirty Energy + Dirty Lies = Dirty Weather.
In the 1940s, the United States Navy approached the Electric Machine and Equipment Company in Hannover, Pennsylvania for help developing an incredible new piece of equipment. It wasn’t a sophisticated sonar array, or some advanced weapons system. It was a chair. But not just any chair. As specified by the Navy contract, it had to be a chair capable of withstanding a direct torpedo blast from an enemy vessel.
So company founder Bud Dinges teamed up with the aluminum experts at Alcoa and gave the Navy a chair that not only met those expectations, but surpassed them. The Emeco 1006 “Navy Chair.” A piece of furniture so indestructible that Dinges once tossed one out a sixth floor window at a Chicago furniture show (it survived with only minor scratches) to demonstrate its legendary durability.
As it turned out, the US Navy wasn’t the only organization in need of a strong chair, and soon the Navy Chair had spread far beyond the decks of navy destroyers, to schools, prisons and other institutions in need of chairs that could take whatever the world dished out.
The chair’s strengths, however, proved more than structural. It’s highly functional nature resulted in a sublime purity of design. There was nothing in the Navy contract that said the chair had to be beautiful, but damned if it wasn’t. And this serendipitous sex appeal wasn’t lost on pop culture.
Soon Navy Chairs were gracing the cover of fashion magazines, appearing in Hollywood movies, and being ordered by restaurants worldwide, from the humblest fast food joints to the chicest upscale eateries. Today the Navy Chair can be found everywhere, durable as always, quietly offering the world a seat, no matter what.
But the story of Emeco isn’t where they’ve gone. It’s where they haven’t gone. Because through it all, World War II and Woodstock and Watergate, depressions and recessions and burst bubbles of every circumference, Emeco never took the easy road east—a path well worn by its competitors, who’ve offshored their products in droves and sent hundreds of thousands of jobs offshore with them.
Over the past several decades Emeco has had about a million reasons to send production of the Navy Chair overseas, but it has thirty-five pretty great reasons to stay firmly planted in Hanover, PA. Thirty-five passionate US workers with the requisite wizardry to turn raw aluminum into something special: A place to sit that actually stands for something.
When you get down to it, there’s no way in hell that Emeco would ever outsource the Navy Chair to China.
So someone else did it for them.
If you flip to page 94 in the Fall 2012 Restoration Hardware catalog, you’ll find a 2-page spread with a hero shot of three Emeco Navy chairs. Only they’re not Emeco Navy chairs. They’re Restoration Hardware “Naval Chairs,” exact knock-offs made in China.
When you think of all the hard work, all the history, and all the integrity that went into making the Emeco Navy Chair an icon, the comparative greed and laziness that birthed the Restoration Hardware version is almost incomprehensible. And trying to comprehend it imparts a serious malaise. It’s the inverse of witnessing a great Olympic performance. Instead of reveling in the fact that humanity, of which you are a small part, just raised the collective bar, you are made to realize the kind of weakness humans are capable of, and you’re sad to be one of them. At least, that’s how I feel.
I know; it’s only a chair. But it’s more than that. In fact, it’s hard to count how many levels this sucks on, so I’ll stick to the biggest three.
First is the real cost of the Restoration Hardware chair. It’s about a third of the price of a real Emeco, but it costs so much more. It costs jobs, which has an exponential effect on the US economy, which is how we ended up in the Great Recession in the first place. Buying the Restoration Hardware version means you save a few bucks up front, but down the road your house is worth less.
Second is impact on the planet. The Restoration Hardware chair is made without the hindrance of EPA regulations, so there’s nothing that says toxic waste can’t be pumped into the air, or dumped into rivers. And since the chair is shipped halfway around the planet, it leaves a Yeti-sized carbon footprint wherever it goes.
But the third should piss you off the most. Restoration Hardware is lying to you. Through both omission (nowhere in the catalog does it tell you the chair is made in China) and blatant misdirection. Aside from calling the chair the “1940s Naval Chair” and hoping you assume it’s made for the US Navy, they not-so-subtly imply that everything in the catalog, including the chair, is American made by putting Abe Lincoln on the cover. Abe Lincoln. A man who would have punched whatever reptilian Restoration Hardware executive outsourced this chair directly in the face.
There are other ways this sucks—stolen IP, shameful quality (look at those toothpaste welds!), heinous labor conditions—but it’s no use counting; the damage is already done. Even if Emeco could stop Restoration Hardware from selling the counterfeit chairs, the factory in China is already tooled up with the stolen design, and there are probably 10,000 fakes floating around out there already, with no shortage of shady retailers happy to sell them.
Unfortunately this isn’t some new policy at Restoration Hardware. It’s something they’ve quietly been doing since 2008, hoping you wouldn’t notice and counting their money in the interim.
The good news is, you can still vote with your dollars, and stop shopping there. You don’t have to stand for this. In fact if you really want to do something, you shouldn’t stand at all. You should take a seat. One that’s made in the USA.
By Dave Schiff, Partner & CCO, Made Movement
This video hit me hard. As a parent of a special needs child the "R" word shakes you to the core every time you hear it. It hurts. And usually the offending party is a friend. Sometimes a good friend. Somebody who would never use the word to describe my child. They just think it's a funny word. A way to describe anything that's wrong or stupid in the world. And the troubling thing is the word seems to have become MORE acceptable in popular culture instead of LESS acceptable. It's taken me a long time to recover from the word in conversation fast enough to actually stop people and ask them not to use that word. So I'm impressed and humbled by the Stop The "R" Word campaign. In the grand scheme of things it may not be our most pressing issue. But then again maybe it is. Because before we can tackle humanities biggest issues we will have to become aware of ALL of our hidden biases and prejudices and cruelties. We can come up with a new word folks. Or even better we can move past sentences that require the "R" word or a synonym at all.
As always, share the thoughts you like. After all, together we have the power to make the world we all want.
Thanks to mommyniricares.com, lovethatmax.com and r-word.org.
Wham. In Your Face Monsanto! Whole Foods Throws It's Support Behind Your Right To Know What You Are Eating
The moment everybody in the GMO battle has been waiting for. Whole Foods has decided to support California Prop. 37. This Prop will require the labeling of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in California. And because of the size of the Californian market it will have implications for the entire country. Most of what Whole Foods sells is not organic and so much of it contains GMOs. What to many would seem like a no-brainer for Whole Foods is actually a monumental decision so there is surely a lot of hand wringing in Austin going on. But I believe that it was the only decision they could make if they hoped to stay on mission and continue to be the brand that Americans trust most on food and food issues. Below is how they described their decision and some of their concerns with the fine print of Prop. 37:
Whole Foods Market supports California’s Proposition 37 requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods by January 1, 2014 because it has long believed its customers have the right to know how their food is produced. However, the company has some reservations with the bill as drafted and hopes several issues can be addressed in the implementation phase should voters approve the measure, including:
- The use of 0.5% of the total weight as the upper limit for processed foods that contain one or more genetically engineered ingredients to be exempted from labeling is inconsistent with the long-established international labeling standard of 0.9%.
- The people of California’s best interests will not be properly represented as the enforcement of Proposition 37 will not be handled in partnership with the California Attorney General’s Office to ensure objective guidance and impartial oversight, but instead by private plaintiff attorneys pursuing civil litigation.
Because of the inconsistency in thresholds and the lack of Attorney General oversight, manufacturers could be compelled to label products with “May be Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” even if it is not the case to avoid costly litigation and protect themselves. This could result in consumers receiving inaccurate information, which is contrary to the intent of the bill itself.
Additionally, Whole Foods Market is encouraged by the parallel effort in Washington State with their proposed Initiative Measure No. 522 as it already addresses some of the concerns of California’s Proposition 37. These two state initiatives could possibly lead to a broader effort to create one federal standard on labeling of genetically engineered foods similar to how the National Organic Standards were formed. One set of rules and uniform support of a consumer’s right to know would ultimately be in the best interest of all.
Learn more at California Right To Know.
Unilever's Paul Polman Becomes First Major CEO To Look Further Than 3 months Into The Future. A FearLess Award For Paul.
This is HUGE news folks. Paul Polman gets the FearLess Award for being the first major CEO to say he will look beyond quarterly returns. Here is an exerpt from his recent interview with Adi Ignatius of HBR.
HBR: Your company has done away with quarterly reporting. Can you tell us about that decision?
PAUL POLMAN: We've created an environment for our business to be a little bit more longer time focused. We abolished quarterly profits. We don't give guidance anymore. We changed our compensation systems for the long term.
And a FearLess Award to concerned consumers out there too. Paul points to your expectations as one of the main reasons for Unilver's course correction. Check out the entire interview here. Drop a like on Unilever if you're feeling the love. Thanks for Peter Johnson for giving us the heads up on Paul.